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Stop Complaining, Already!

Features
by Leonard Maltin
February 27, 2012 3:20 PM
50 Comments
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photo courtesy A.M.P.A.S.

As tired as I am of the long award season that leads up to the Oscars, I am even wearier of the professional complainers whose job, it seems, is to find fault with the Academy Awards show every year, as well as the honors they bestow. I don’t agree with all of the Academy’s choices, and I’m not blind to the faults of the telecast, but it’s become a perpetual punching bag for pundits who are determined not to like what they see. Enough already.

The same people who found last night’s show, and host, old-fashioned were just as eager to snipe at the Academy when it radically altered the event several years ago. I enjoyed that innovative broadcast, and I liked last night’s as well. I could have done without the opening movie montage and song parodies, but Billy Crystal has the comic savvy to punctuate the show with spontaneous reactions and zingers from start to finish. That adds welcome entertainment value—and laughs—to the mix. For that I’m willing to forgive his self-indulgence.

I thought it was a classy and unusually well-paced show; there were no real lulls, which is a rarity. I realized, long ago, that the odds of the Oscar show being great entertainment were pretty tall. They have so many awards to hand out—mostly to people we don’t know or recognize—that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to maintain momentum and rooting interest for more than three hours.

photo courtesy A.M.P.A.S.

The show is at the mercy of its winners. If, like so many of this year’s recipients, they express their honest emotions, and reveal a sense of humor, they make us care, even if we don’t know who they are.

As to the rest, how can you not be moved when an entire audience leaps to its feet to cheer Octavia Spencer, who was unknown to them just one year ago? How can you be bored when Meryl Streep wins the Best Actress award—and then gives a disarming, self-deprecating speech?

When it comes to the selections, I heard several observers claim that the Academy was embracing “nostalgia” by honoring The Artist andHugo. Give me a break! Hugo represents cutting-edge storytelling by a world-class director—in 3-D, no less. The Artist dares to revisit a form of cinema that was abandoned in the late 1920s. The Academy members admired these films for making the past seem immediate and relevant. That has nothing to do with nostalgia; it has everything to do with great moviemaking, which is what the Academy Awards are all about.

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50 Comments

  • Alex | February 29, 2012 2:40 PMReply

    Thank you for writing this. The Oscar is the award of awards for the movie business. No obituary will ever lead off with People's choice Award winner...passed away today. I have been watching the Oscar's since the 1970 telecast. It's part of my movie DNA. To even think of dropping awards is nonsense-it's bad enough that the special Oscars are being given out in a separate ceremony now. That "small" audience has in it the future Oscar winners who this award show inspires.

  • Edward O. | February 29, 2012 4:15 AMReply

    I actually did think "The Artist" was very much about nostalgia - with a twist. Here's why:
    http://ed-is-a-stranger-on-earth.blogspot.com/2012/02/necessity-of-nostalgia-michel.html

  • Marc Schauer | February 28, 2012 1:28 PMReply

    Well said Leonard. The Oscars don't claim to be anything other than what they are. If you want to see big box-office films being recognized you have the Peoples Choice Awards. If you want to see Indie movies recognized you have the Independent Spirit Awards. There is room for everyone. Is it perfect? No. Should they apologize and react to every critic out there? Absolutely not. The Oscar telecast will never get the viewership numbers they once did because of numerous factors including: our 24 hour ability to see "stars" (it no longer has a voyeuristic specialness to it), the numerous televised award shows leading up to the Oscars, and the fact that the way films are distributed in this country means that most people won't get to see Oscar nominated films until they are released on DVD, PPV, or cable long after the Oscars have come and gone. The important thing the Oscars do is remind people that movies matter, that they are a special art form, and that they still have the ability to transport and inspire.

  • jk105 | February 28, 2012 10:04 AMReply

    The complainers were shining their daggers all week long to stick it to the Oscars. Crystal did what he was hired to do--move the show along--and that's what he did while providing some chuckles along the way. Anyone who expects non-stop entertainment watching near four hours of the Oscars has never seen that Oscars.

  • Ken Barnes | February 28, 2012 3:52 AMReply

    Well said, Leonard. What would life be like without the annual Academy Awards ? This is the living,breathing heart of the film industry.We may not all agree on the presentation or the Academy's choices. So what ? As long as the world loves movies, the "Oscars" will always be THE event of the year.

  • Film_Shark | February 28, 2012 12:48 AMReply

    Billy Crystal stepped in and did was he was hired to do. That isn't my problem with the telecast. Did you see the President of the Academy - Tom Sherak. He walked on the stage and read the most boring speech I've ever witnessed. My question is how he reached such a high level of status with the Academy? Even Crystal took a shot at this guy after his 'mesmerizing' speech. Maybe Sherak is responsible for the telecasts going into an anabolic shock.

    Looking back at last year with James Franco and Anne Hathaway, I liked to see more young stars host the Academy Awards. James Franco wasn't as bad as people thought he was. Why not Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel as the next Academy hosts? Why not Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig? Why not Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone? The truth is simple, the Academy Awards does need a shot in the arm of youth.

  • Mark Whelan | February 27, 2012 11:53 PMReply

    Spot on, Leonard. My only real lament would be the lack of a tenth nomination (in my mind there were plenty of worthy films to fill that egregious gap), but that had little to do with the broadcast.

  • Ronnie D. | February 27, 2012 10:59 PMReply

    Oh and can someone explain to me why on earth Tintin wasn't nominated? Imo it was by far the best animated movie of the year. Was it not considered animation or something??

  • mike schlesinger | February 28, 2012 9:37 PM

    TINTIN wasn't nominated because a plurality of Academy members are actors, and they've been rather vocal in their opposition to motion-capture, which they feel (with some justification) that it threatens their profession, and thus their livelihood.

  • doxrus | February 28, 2012 1:30 AM

    Not enough Academy members in the Animation and Shorts Branch thought it was good enough to nominate. That's how it works. Very simple.

  • Ronnie D. | February 27, 2012 10:49 PMReply

    I agree with everything except for Billy Crystal - he was terrible.

  • Ronnie D. | February 28, 2012 9:09 AM

    Well that's absurd then.

  • DC | February 27, 2012 9:47 PMReply

    Thank you Mr. Maltin! Couldn't agree more.

  • Steve Vanden-Eykel | February 27, 2012 8:58 PMReply

    Oh, and by the way. I don't know how you can say that Octavia Spencer was unknown to the audience a year ago. Anybody who watches TV once in a while knows exactly who she is. She's been doing bit parts on sitcoms for years, always playing exactly the same character. This time, they put that character into a movie, and she won an Oscar. But I guarantee the ovation would have been bigger if Melissa McCarthy had won. Didn't you notice how she got the loudest applause when the nominations were read?

  • Steve Vanden-Eykel | February 28, 2012 1:13 AM

    I still think David Letterman was the best host of recent memory. One bit didn't work, and everybody turned on the guy.

  • Steve Vanden-Eykel | February 27, 2012 8:44 PMReply

    I hated the show this year. I mean, really hated it. Bloated, boring and self-indulgent, and that was just the host. And the problem with your thesis, Mr. Maltin, is that the Oscars really don't have to be this way. We really don't need to have celebrity presenters giving us awkward explanations of how important sound editing is. We really don't need a speech from the Academy president. We really don't need to have a tedious list of everybody who died in the past year. Most important, we really don't need acceptance speeches from the technical winners. And before you jump on me for that last one, I say we put the question to the technical nominees themselves: Would you rather have thirty seconds to talk, or would you rather be allowed to present a thirty second reel showcasing the work you just won for? I know which one I'd rather watch.

    That's the great mistake of the Oscars, year after year. They keep forgetting to honor the films that were actually nominated. I guess it would take too much time away from Adam Sandler reminiscing about the first movie he ever saw.

  • Brady | February 27, 2012 8:10 PMReply

    The loudest kvetch is blogger Nikki Finkee. She needs tranqs. For an Oscar show
    it was OK. Tx, Mr. Maltin.

  • mike schlesinger | February 27, 2012 8:05 PMReply

    Face it: this is the dickish world we live in. Johnny Carson could come back from the grave and bring it in in 90 minutes, and they'd still be whining about what a lousy show it was. I thought this was the best ceremony in ages: Billy was in fine form, it moved crisply, no dull spots, most of the winners were deserving, and you felt like the grown-ups were back in charge; only the inevitable jaw-dropping omissions from the Memoriam reel marred the evening. The Nikki Finkes of the world will always be haters, so I say hell with them and let's enjoy what we've got while we still have it.

  • Marc Arnold | February 27, 2012 7:54 PMReply

    My solution to the complainers and bitchers: Don't watch.
    No one has to watch. And no one who watches needs someone to tell her he didn't like it. Or why!

  • Daniel | February 27, 2012 7:45 PMReply

    I'm 27 and I absolutely loved having Billy back. Were some of the awards predictable? Yes, but that's what happens with a dragged out season.

  • John Moore | February 27, 2012 7:35 PMReply

    You're right: "The show is at the mercy of its winners." And there wasn't a single surprise winner, which makes 2012 a year without upset - or upsets. And that makes for boooring television. Unless you consider Meryl Streep a surprise choice. If you do, you and Meryl are the only ones who didn't see that one coming. This is a woman who gets nominated for tripe like "Julie and Julia" and "The Devil Wears Prada," after all. What's a good Oscars without at least one, "Are you freaking kidding me? They chose Julia Roberts' boobs over Ellen Burstyn!" moment. This one had nothing to complain about. Or get excited about. Boring.

  • Dean Yeagle | February 27, 2012 7:30 PMReply

    Hi, Leonard! Good show, I thought. The scripted 'banter' was less painful than usual, and Billy is the best at a job that must be a real challenge. I can't begrudge the French their wins (I personally have good reason to love the French these days), but I would have liked to see Scorsese win for stepping so far out of his usual element and giving us such a love letter to the movies, and introducing people to Georges Melies. And it's good to see an old guy (five years older than me!) keeping his career fresh and proving he's still got it. And I would've liked to have seen A CAT IN PARIS win best animated feature. French again, and I haven't seen it, but it was 'traditional' 2D animation, and that's enough for me.

  • Mike | February 27, 2012 7:44 PM

    "Rango" was in 2D, not 3D, and was a wonderful, inventive movie very worthy of the win.

  • Kay | February 27, 2012 7:29 PMReply

    AMEN!! 'Nuf said, Leonard!!

  • carole | February 27, 2012 6:32 PMReply

    Thank you Leonard, you are right on the mark, because our world has become so viral everyone with a computer has become a critic. Billy led us on along on a three hour trip that was comfortable, fun, and clever. Young people don't view this show and for that reason they should stop trying to appeal to people who will never watch. I was watching with a room full of show biz peeps and only two of us had seen all the films, which i found surprising. Can you tell me where we might catch the shorts and animated shorts, they looked so interesting.

  • Roy H. Wagner ASC | February 27, 2012 6:32 PMReply

    I've not read any reviews of last night's show and don't really care. I am a voting member of the Academy and have always been astonished with the Academy's and network's obsession to alter the event into a variety show. It was invented as a means to keep labor at bay in a hostile environment and to honor the work of the studio's employees. The original "gala" was a get together that included dinner. I personally believe that those who love movies want a celebration of movies. The Academy Awards should be an old fashioned celebration of our dreams connected to our aspirations. I hated the circus show whilst cutting off the once in a lifetime voice of an award winner. If I wanted a variety show I would turn the channel. I want to see stars in their "glamorous" habitat amidst a celebration of all that we love. I personally wish Bob Hope were still alive. That's how out of the mainstream I am. Bring back the dinner tables, Erroll Flynn having a food fight amidst the awards, warm conversations among winners and losers. I've, for the most part, hated the modern awards and their attempt to recreate vaudeville.

  • MAL | February 29, 2012 10:33 AM

    You sir, are my new hero! You have hit the nail on the head with your comment and I could not agree with you more.

  • Jim Reinecke | February 27, 2012 6:26 PMReply

    Thanks, Leonard for firing a salvo back at the malcontents who swoop down on the Oscarcast every year like so many vultures (unfortunately, the resemblance doesn't end there). One of your fellow Indiewire bloggers (who may have also authored Melissa Leo's less than classy acceptance speech last year, judging by his choice of words) was particularly rough on Billy, making some comment regarding the "racial" nature of some of his material. Pardon me, but did I miss something? Or has my rapidly waning patience with the blathering of the PC crowd just rendered me "insensitive"? Oscar night has been an annual highlight for me for over 40 years since I first begin to love movies and it's only grown more special as the years pass (shame on me for taking my nostalgia strain for a stroll). You can have Super Bore Sunday. . .give me Oscar night! It never has (and never will) caused me to grab the remote and exit the festivities (here's another trip down memory lane for those who loathe that sort of thing. . .I started watching the Oscars BEFORE we had remotes. . .or DVR's. . .or VCR's. . .or even cable!). I suppose that I'd better sign off before someone asks me to recite Greer Garson's acceptance speech for MRS. MINIVER!

  • andrzej | February 27, 2012 6:24 PMReply

    Down with Hollywood! I consider all oscar award ceremenies as a tasteless selfpromoting show. And movies - God save me from watching that kitch.

  • Paul | February 27, 2012 9:01 PM

    Why would you be on a blog that is all about how great movies are etc. and then complain about a show you probably watched (why?). Why the torture? I have no interest in "Teen Mom" or "Jersey Shore" but I would not watch them and search out sites about them to whine and complain. Movies are about the only decent thing left in this (as you and your comments represent so very well) sad, once great society. Keep your whiny, uninformed "opinions" to yourself thank you. P.s. Get a whip and become a flagellant, it would be right up your alley.

  • Kitty | February 27, 2012 7:19 PM

    How odd, then, that you're here reading a blog written by a movie critic about movies. Huh.

  • Randy Carter | February 27, 2012 6:12 PMReply

    Couldn't agree more...we saw Billy Crystal at the Academy salute to Sophia Loren and the wife and I immediately yearned for him to do the Awards show. Well paced show...pix that deserved merit got the statues...enough with the carping from pundits that think Monogram is something you have on a set of towels...RC

  • Terry O'Reilly | February 27, 2012 6:06 PMReply

    Thanks Leonard - I generally agree with your comments - particularly as they relate to critics who seem to make the pillorying of the Oscars broadcast an annual event!

    Programs like this suffer the fact that they serve dual purposes - often at odds with each other. The Academy Awards are a celebration of the craft, and yet many of the "craft" awards are gone from the broadcast. Its an event to honor individual performances, but the pace of a broadcast show requires short acceptance speeches and limits to eloquence. Its a grand flowing pageant that is forced to halt in its tracks every 10 minutes or so to accommodate yet another "word from our sponsor". And its a stage show deserving of great scale, but one which has to accept the fact that some folks still watch the broadcast on a small screen.

    And as for the host? Pity the poor performer who says "yes" to this assignment. Billy Crystal was fine, but not special...and to the bulk of the younger movie-going set he was never going to be their cup of tea. I suspect Eddie Murphy would have had his own set of detractors had he taken the stage.







    very year the show seems to struggle with the fact that it is a worldwide "broadcast" of an event in a theatre, and on that basis suffers real limitations.

  • Ron Pulliam | February 27, 2012 6:03 PMReply

    I agree with the "enough already". How many years must the Academy give only one acting Oscar in the first hour for folks to finally "get it" and "get over it, already"? Every year the same old beef..."Well, we're an hour in and only ONE acting Oscar has been presented." Well, DUH!
    And there's the occasional dis of the production...the directing or the staging or this or that by someone who has NEVER done anything of this scale in his or her life. Always the same old condescension...always the same kvetching of things "they" think they know more about than anyone else.
    It was fast-paced and fun. And the commercials were pretty nifty, too! A Lite Coke commercial, three hilarious JCP (Ellen DeGeneres) commercials and a sensation promo tease for ABC's "Revenge" made commercial watching a lot of fun, too!

  • Patrick Picking | February 27, 2012 5:58 PMReply

    I had a great time watching the show again last night. I've watched it every year since the early 1970s. I don't know why so many people are negative. It was fun and entertaining. Much better with Billy Crystal than last years abysmal hosting by James Franco & Anne Hathaway.

  • Arthur Rosson Jr. | February 27, 2012 5:55 PMReply

    I agree with you Leonard,this show took me back to the begining of this wonderful business,
    bought some very beautiful memories of my family and their work in this business,as you so well
    know,about their history,the mention of Fairbanks,really did it,he was the one whom gave my dad
    his start in motion pictures in 1916 out west.Even though dad started at the Vitagraph in 1909,it was
    not until he came to Hollywood,where he really made his mark as a director.
    Best to you always
    Arthur Jr.

  • Lillian | February 27, 2012 5:53 PMReply

    Good for you, Leonard!! I may think George Clooney deserved it for playing the closest
    to a real person he ever has, but, the voters spoke! And the show was well-done!
    Thanks for saying so,
    Lillian

  • Arlene | February 27, 2012 5:52 PMReply

    Barbara Walters (on "The View" this morning) was not only unhappy with this years awards - particularly THE ARTIST win - she made some very insensitive comments re early actresses being invited to the Oscars in past years, and then mimicked one before saying, "and thank goodness they don't do that any more."

  • Francoise Kirkland | February 27, 2012 5:43 PMReply

    Perfectly said Leonard. We feel exactly the same. Can't make everybody happy all of the time.
    We enjoyed the show last night. Vive la France!

  • John Rabe | February 27, 2012 5:43 PMReply

    Amen! Crystal knows how to be a host - a rare talent and overpaid profession ;-).
    And we replayed his "what am I thinking?" growl for Nick Nolte over and over.

  • Richard W. Bann | February 27, 2012 5:39 PMReply

    Totally agree with every sentiment. I cannot believe the way so many people are savaging Billy Crystal. I'd like to see any one of these critics try hosting the Oscars. Who could do it better?

  • Marc Schenker | February 27, 2012 5:35 PMReply

    Re: The Artist
    Imagine how much harder the actors had to work when they couldn't say what they meant. Imagine how so much of depended on the writer. It was our first motion picture art form and it's great to see it revisited for that reason. It was a true original, something so rare in movies today.

  • Earl Blair | February 27, 2012 5:23 PMReply

    I have been watching since the very first Oscar telecast in 1953. In those 59 years, some were better; some were worse. Count me as one who enjoyed lats night's telecast.

    Technology has jaded us all a bit. When I watched the first Oscar telecast, we could only see the films and their stars in a movie theatre for a limited time. Pictures did not play for weeks on end, unless they were "held over by public demand". They were in our local theatre two or three days, then were off to another theatre across town. After first and second run play dates, they would go to the drive-ins then back to the film exchanges, seldom to be seen until re-issued five to seven years later.

    Occasionally, a favorite celebrity would pop up on television as a guest in a television series or early news/talk show like TODAY. Perhaps, you would even hear them on radio gabbing with Louella Parsons or Hedda Hopper. A personal appearance by a Hollywood celebrity was a fairly rare occurrence outside a major city, so we would have to be content reading movie magazines and the newspapers.

    Today, almost everything is available on demand. Thousands of movies await at our finger tips. We can build our own DVD libraries of of favorite films over and over again, or watch them uninterrupted in our homes via rental, cable or via streaming. Celebrities are easier to contact personally -- via Twitter, Facebook or other networking sites -- and are almost constantly in our view via network television, cable or the internet 24 hours a day.

    It's become all too familiar. Too easy.

    Personally, I enjoy being able to view and own thousands of films on DVD to enjoy again and again. I also delight in being able to see and acquire stills and posters I never thought I would own. But the very technology that provides these wonderful blessings may have tarnished our opinions of Oscar and the ceremony a bit through the years.

    Yes, it can be done better and, yes, the Academy is made up of only a select number of mostly male, mostly over 50, Hollywood insiders. These complaints are not new and have been voiced in every one of the seven decades I have watched the Academy Awards telecast.

    The Oscars are, and always have been, the film industry congratulating itself. In the future, like in the past, some telecasts will be better; some will be worse.

    As Shakespeare wrote, "The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves...."

  • Tim | February 27, 2012 5:00 PMReply

    Well said Leonard, the Oscars is what it is: an awards show, it's not supposed to be a movie in itself. For what it was, I think last night's broadcast is as good as anyone can hope for in an awards ceremony. Oh and Chris Rock should host next year, he was hilarious!

  • Kim | February 27, 2012 4:59 PMReply

    What really annoys me is when people say the Artist was not daring enough and was just Oscar bait...right because how many silent films have won Oscars over the years?

    And if making a silent B&W film in 2011-2012 is not daring, I don't know what is. I guess it didn't have enough special effects or film tricks for people (sigh).

  • Davey | February 27, 2012 4:52 PMReply

    I enjoyed the show and it was paced well. Only a little over three hours. One thing I didn't like, though, was the music playing in between awards. I prefer music from movies. Those musicians in the boxes were never introduced and I found them unnecessary. I wish Hugo had gotten a major award but I'm happy it got some recognition, as did Marty in all the acceptance speeches.

  • Lauren | February 27, 2012 4:51 PMReply

    Thank you!! I agree with you 100% about revisiting old moviemaking and modernizing it, as well as my own weariness with this constant jaded sniping of the film industry.

  • Ken Bass | February 27, 2012 4:27 PMReply

    I agree. It was one of the better Oscar shows I've seen. And, Billy Crystal's ability to come back after a segment and kill with a clever one-liner is reminiscent of the Bob Hope days of hosting. Oh, wait....I guess that's being nostalgiac...Oh, well.

  • Robert Hunt | February 27, 2012 4:18 PMReply

    I agree completely. 85% of the nonsense written about the Awards is recycled hackwork from people who file the same I'm-above-all-this report every year...

  • BrettJ | February 28, 2012 3:46 PM

    Due to unfortunate circumstances - a movie theatre pulling a "bait and switch" IMHO where they invited you to come to a FREE broadcast on their large screen and "oops, it didn't work, well watch it in our CAFE that only seats about 5) - but I digress - I didn't see them for the first time in several decades. I could NOT find a streaming video here in Canada, but that isn't the point. In my 52+ years, no one hosted better than Carson but Crystal is close. You need someone who is quick on their feet - Carson was, Crystal is. The show may be long and seems longer if the hosts are awful (last years was THE worst show I have ever seen) but the set-up has remained essentially the same. Mark Evanier's idea of doing the "Memoriam" segment as more upbeat, a celebration of the wonderful careers of these people, has a lot of merit. I won't be missing the show next year and hope a great host is chosen.

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